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Animals and inequality
Someone just sent me this very interesting article from WaPo:

«Ask archaeologists where economic inequality comes from, and most will probably blame farming. [...] All over the world, they say, wherever a person planted a seed, inequality inevitably sprouted. [...] A new study published Wednesday in the journal Nature offers a potential second culprit: animals. Specifically, large domesticated ones like cattle and horses — creatures that could pull plows and carry warriors, enhancing the kinds of activities that give rise to differences and discrimination.»

By applying «a formula [to estimate inequality] to the periods just before and after the adoption of agriculture,» researchers found that «[s]ocieties in Eurasia and North Africa were a lot more unequal than ones in the Americas.» The formula was based on «house size, the logic being that the richest people in a community would have the largest homes,» since wages &c are all out when considering pre-civilised societies.

They found that «what Europe and Asia had that the Americas lacked [was] large, domesticated animals. Horses, sheep, cattle, mules and goats».

The logic seems sound enough. «With a horse or an ox pulling a plow, a farmer can till a lot more land and plant a lot more crops in the same amount of time. This “extensification” of agriculture generated larger surpluses that allowed for larger cities and raised the inequality possibility frontier. [...] Agriculture extensification . . . has an interesting way of tying wealth to future income.»

The article then gives some examples of how animal agriculture is really good at two things: growing -- as mentioned above, and «increas[ing] the wealth of the wealthiest and decreases the wealth of the poorest.»

Well worth a read!

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